Recently, Australian LNP MP Andrew Laming infuriated teachers across Australia by suggesting that
“Teaching needs to operate like other jobs, with the same hours, days and weeks as the rest of the economy, rather than cluttered school hours where there is little beyond the face-to-face time”.
Mr Laming has clearly never been a teacher and one wonders if he has even spent any time with them? If so, he would know that teachers regularly work far more hours than most people realise, with many of those hours done at home, on weekends, late at night or during their ‘holidays’.
Teachers are finding they need to work these hours to stay atop of a demanding workload. Increasing the formal working hours of teachers is not going to solve the problem of workload. However, attention to how that workload is determined and directed may help.
The school timetable ultimately determines what ‘work’ is allocated to teachers. It directs teachers on which classes they teach, when they should be in class, when they should take breaks, when they should meet and who they teach. While some view teaching work as being allocated by their faculty head, the timetable is the ultimate determiner of how that workload is implemented.
Here are 5 ways to dramatically reduce teacher workload with smarter timetables:
Allocate teachers two or more classes of a subject in a given year
This way teachers will only need to lesson plan once, for multiple classes. For example, having two English classes in a given year may be a lot less work than one in Year 7 and one in Year 8. Furthermore, working with others teaching the same subject and year level means that the planning workload can be divided and shared.
Schedule planning meetings during school time
Traditionally, meetings are scheduled as an afterthought which means that it becomes harder to find a period in common where the required teachers are available. This results in meetings being held after hours. By timetabling the meetings as classes during timetable construction, the probability that a period in common can be found is increased. Smarter timetabling facilitates this as a priority and makes it considerably easier too, which reduces workload and stress not only for the teachers, but the timetabler as well.
Create balanced days with free periods spread evenly across the timetable
Fewer full-period teaching days aids lesson preparation, fosters punctuality and reduces staff absenteeism. Smarter timetabling ensures that the quality of teachers’ timetables is considered when classes are allocated to times. Better quality timetables for teachers reduces stress and workload, by providing better balance.
Use sets of teachers to achieve better assignment of teacher loads
Typically, the faculty head directs which classes will be given to staff in their faculty. This reduces timetabling flexibility, makes the management of staff loads more difficult and often results in more split classes. While the need to have specific teachers on classes at the senior level is valid, for the most part, junior classes can be more freely allocated. Automated staffing algorithms draw from sets of teachers to achieve a better overall staffing balance of load and class assignments. These auto staffing algorithms can also be applied to duty rosters, study rosters and on-call rosters. This ensures equity in allocation of duties and placement to less busy days thereby reducing workload and stress.
Minimise the need to take covers and identify potential cover periods on teachers’ timetables
For a teacher, nothing is more frustrating than having that free period you set aside for lesson planning disappear due to a class you are allocated to cover. While covering classes is ‘part of the job’, they can increase stress and workload when unexpected. Timetabling periods on a teacher’s timetable where they are considered ‘on-call’ for a cover means that they are less likely to schedule a meeting during that period, as they know they ‘might’ be given a cover. When combined with a daily administration system that can actively identify and prompt users to merge appropriate classes resulting in one class to cover instead of two, the number of teachers required to cover classes is reduced. These opportunities may be otherwise missed if not ‘guided’ by the technology.
Is your timetable helping or hindering your teachers’ workload? Powerful timetabling technology like Edval, coupled with clever daily management tools like Edval Daily, can make it easier to organise arrangements to better suit staff thereby reducing workload.
The team at Edval have compiled 33 ways that smarter timetabling can be used to reduce teacher workload. To see the full list, visit edval.education or email firstname.lastname@example.org